Educator Edition: 9-5-23

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An update from Academic Standards, Instruction and Assessment

Vol. 2, No. 1: Sept. 5, 2023

Updates From MDE

Mathematics MCA-IV Test Specifications Public Review

Following the 2022 revisions to the Minnesota K–12 Academic Mathematics Standards (currently being finalized through the Rulemaking process), the Math Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment – Series IV (MCA-IV) is beginning development of questions to assess these standards. Minnesota educators, in collaboration with the MDE Division of Academic Standards, Instruction and Assessment, have drafted test specifications for the Math MCA-IV to assist with the development of the new assessments. Test specifications provide a summary blueprint for test construction, specifying the portion of questions for each reporting category and outlining the essential features of the test design to provide consistency and transparency across test forms for the life of each assessment.

Members of the public are encouraged to review the proposed test specifications and provide feedback through the Math MCA-IV Test Specifications Feedback Survey. The survey will be open until Sept. 17.

Feedback from multiple perspectives—including math, English learner and special education teachers—is important in creating the best assessment possible for all Minnesota students. Please share this information with applicable district staff.

New Minnesota Equity in Action Framework to Support Local School Communities

As we start this new school year, MDE wants to highlight a new resource to support equity. The Minnesota Equity in Action Framework centers equal partnerships as the foundation for improving educational outcomes for all Minnesota students. The framework operates under the belief that educators, school boards, and school and district leaders must work as equal partners with parents/families and communities to identify and address systemic inequities to enable all students to learn and achieve at high levels.

This resource focuses on five key Equity Priorities:

  1. Address Access and Resource Inequities
  2. Recruit and Retain a Diverse, Culturally Responsive Teaching Force
  3. Eliminate Disproportionate Suspension and Expulsion Rates
  4. Embed Cultural Competence in System-wide Educational Practices
  5. Engage and Partner with Parents/Families and Community Allies

Each equity priority is accompanied by recommended actions for consideration by six distinct school community groups that, working in partnership, can build toward equity within their local school community: educators, school leaders, district leaders, school boards, parents/families and community allies.

The framework is centered on guiding principles that include:

  1. Authentic Partnership
  2. Parents/Families as Experts
  3. Educators as Lifelong Learners
  4. Balance Power and Co-create Solutions
  5. Parent/Family-driven Goals
  6. Asset-based and Identity Affirming
  7. Build Capacity

Soliciting input and exchanging expertise with the parents/families and community groups in your school community will allow you to determine which strategies and action steps to include in the co-creation and development of a plan to meet the educational equity needs of your students and school community.

This overview has been adapted from Pages 6–7 and 12–13 in the Minnesota Equity in Action Framework.

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Selected Statewide Data Sources and Their Intended Uses

After students complete the statewide assessments each spring, results are provided at the individual student-level and are summarized at the school, district, county, and state levels. MCA and MTAS results specifically, are intended to be used at the summarized level (for example, student group, grade, school, or district) to examine progress toward equitable learning outcomes. Last spring’s summarized statewide assessment results were publicly released on Aug. 24.

As you review the statewide assessment results, it is important to remember the following: 

  • Results are one piece of a district’s balanced assessment system. Information from each system level (classroom, district, state) works together to guide teaching and learning of the grade-level standards. 
  • Results represent a snapshot of student learning of the standards, meaning they reflect learning at one specific point in time. They are broader in scope than information produced in the classroom, where the learning takes place.
  • Results should be used at the summarized level (across student groups, grades, school buildings) to help identify underlying inequities and highlight promising curriculum and instructional changes.
  • Results should always be used alongside additional evidence of student learning when making decisions. 

To support the recommendation in the fourth bullet above, a new resource has been created highlighting a short list of additional educational reports intended to be used by students, families, teachers and leaders. The selected reports might be useful for planning data discussions, professional development days, as well as for communicating about results with students and families. Review the Selected Statewide Data Sources and Intended Uses resource on Testing 1, 2, 3 for a description of each recommended data set alongside its intended use. Additionally, highlighted next to each data set is a group of related Minnesota K–12 Academic standards that can be used to design lessons for students, including examples of how they might design their own action research project or data inquiry activity. Teachers might consider using these data reports and recommendations when planning lessons aligned to these standards.

For more detailed information on what is included in each assessment report, how to use and access them, visit the Use Statewide Assessment Results page.

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Upcoming Opportunities

Comprehensive State Literacy Development Supplemental Grant

The Minnesota Department of Education released the federal Comprehensive State Literacy Development Supplemental Grant competition on Aug. 28. Approximately $2.7 million is available to Minnesota local educational agencies (LEAs) and publicly funded early childhood educational programs for the purpose of building educator and leader capacity to implement evidence-based Structured Literacy practices in order to increase the literacy outcomes for all Minnesota students, especially those who are consistently underserved. Awarded applicants will use funding for educators and leaders to engage in MDE-approved training on evidence-based structured literacy practices from the menu of approved training vendors identified through the READ Act. The application deadline is Sept. 29.

For more information, please visit the MDE Competitive Grants webpage. Two webinars will be available for interested applicants to attend to hear an overview of the funding opportunity: 

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Arts Standards Series: Registration Opens Early September

Curriculum leaders in the arts are invited to register for a virtual series dedicated to implementing the arts standards. For more information, visit the MDE Arts Page.

  • Sept. 28, from 9 to 10:30 a.m.: Introduction to Minnesota Arts Standards and Other Arts Education Requirements

  • Oct. 26, from 9 to 10:30 a.m.: Analyzing Benchmarks and Learning Progressions in the Arts

  • Nov. 15, from 9 to 10:30 a.m.: Standards-based Assessments in the Arts

  • Dec. 6, from 9 to 10:30 a.m.: Supporting Curriculum Development in the Arts

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New Coordinator Training: Gifted Education Boot Camp

The Minnesota Department of Education, in collaboration with the Minnesota Council for the Gifted and Talented and Minnesota Educators of the Gifted and Talented, will host a series of virtual meetings for new gifted education coordinators. The Gifted Education Boot Camp (GT Boot Camp) meetings will be held on the first Wednesday of each month to help prepare new coordinators for their role in supporting advanced learners. Registration is free and restricted to coordinators in their first three years of service. Visit the Gifted Education Boot Camp to register. If you need assistance or prefer to register by phone, please contact Wendy Behrens at 651-582-8786.

GT Boot Camp will meet 9–11 a.m. virtually on Oct. 4, Nov. 8, Dec. 6, Jan. 3, Feb. 7 and March 6.

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Curriculum Directors Virtual Sessions

MDE will be hosting two virtual Curriculum Directors virtual sessions on Tuesday, Oct. 10, which will focus on legislative changes specific to content areas. New and experienced Curriculum Directors are welcome to attend either session, as the same information will be provided at each one. New this year, we are requesting Curriculum Director’s to register for the 2023–24 virtual sessions. Additional details for joining are provided once participant(s) register through the links below:

Curriculum Director sessions are also an excellent opportunity to connect with MDE content specialists to discuss the tools available to districts for standards implementation.

Curriculum Director virtual sessions are not recorded, and CEUs will not be provided as these sessions are additional support rather than a training event.

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Alternate Assessment Coffee Break

Meet with Alternate Assessment Specialists to Give Feedback and Ask Questions

The Academic Standards, Instruction, and Assessment Division will host a series of virtual coffee break sessions for MTAS test administrators and special education staff to ask any questions around alternate assessment, share feedback, and connect with other special education staff from across the state. Bring your favorite beverage, along with your questions and feedback, to share at this informal time focused on alternate assessment.

Join us for the first session of the year on Tuesday, Oct. 10, from 4 to 5 p.m., via Zoom: 2023-24 Alternate Assessment Coffee Break Series. Please register for the coffee break in advance. This month we will be discussing the MTAS eligibility guidelines for choosing assessments for students and planning for assessment during IEP meetings.

We will be meeting the second Tuesday of each month during the school year. You need to register only once to join any of the monthly coffee breaks that work for you. The Coffee Break dates for this year are: Oct. 10, Nov. 14, Dec. 12, Jan. 9, Feb. 13, March 12, April 9, and May 14 at 4 p.m. For more information, contact

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Exploring Twice-Exceptional Education Series

Dr. Claire Hughes, Professor of Special, Gifted and Twice-Exceptional Education, Cleveland State University

Gifted children with disabilities are often confusing and confounding to themselves and others. This virtual series explores twice-exceptional children from diverse viewpoints: their characteristics and needs, educational strategies, mental health supports, and collaboration approaches. Participants in this series will leave with practical, evidence-based strategies that allow them to advocate for and support these complex learners. This series is hosted by the Minnesota Council for the Gifted and Talented and a collaboration between the Minnesota Department of Education, Nebraska Department of Education, Minnesota Educators of the Gifted and Talented and Nebraska Association for the Gifted. Please note there is a cost for this series. Visit the Minnesota Council for the Gifted & Talented event page for additional details and registration. If you need assistance or prefer to register by phone, please contact Wendy Behrens at 651-582-8786.

Exploring Twice-Exceptional Education Series will meet 12:30–2:30 p.m. on Oct. 24, Dec. 5, Jan. 23, and Feb. 20.

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Principals: Nominate a Student to the U.S. Senate Youth Program

Two student leaders from each state will participate in a learning experience about the work of their national government. Student delegates will hear major policy addresses by senators, cabinet members, officials from the Departments of State and Defense and directors of other federal agencies, and they will hear from the president of the United States and a justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. In addition, each delegate will also be awarded a $10,000 college scholarship for undergraduate studies, with encouragement to pursue coursework in history and political science.

Find more information on the USSYP website, including the USSYP program brochure and the USSYP application form. Applications must be postmarked or emailed (with all attachments) by Oct. 28.

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Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching

Nominate an outstanding K–6 educator for the 2024 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST). This year, PAEMST celebrates 40 years of recognizing excellent educators nationwide. Please visit the PAEMST website for more information. Nominations close Jan. 8.

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Data and Assessment Literacy Community of Practice Series

In partnership with COMPASS, MDE is launching a monthly Community of Practice series for the 2023–24 school year centered around the content of the Minnesota Data and Assessment Literacy (MnDAL) online learning course. This series will invite school and district leaders to come together for about 2-3 hours a month for collaboration and sharing of best practices in using content from the modules with staff to enhance data and assessment literacy throughout their system, leading to improved educational opportunities for the students they serve.

If you are interested in this opportunity, please fill out the MnDAL Community of Practice form, which will help us with our logistical planning. If any assistance is needed to complete this form, please contact Brendan O'Shea at 651-582-8485. For more information about the MnDAL modules and other COMPASS professional learning offerings about data and assessment literacy, please visit the Professional Learning Opportunities page on Testing 1, 2, 3.

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Important Ideas and Research

Education Assessment, Accountability & Equity: A Multidisciplinary Data Project for Students

While statewide data can be useful for guiding staff professional learning days, it can also be a tool for students to get involved in understanding and identifying systemic barriers and school improvement needs to make recommendations for improving their own learning environment. In the summer of 2022, the National Urban League (NUL) and UnidosUS (UUS) held a series of roundtable discussions about the future of assessment and school accountability systems from a civil rights perspective. As a result of these discussions, an interim report was released summarizing the Emerging Areas of Agreement

  • Pillar I: Our education system(s) should consistently implement broadened definitions of success. 
  • Pillar II: Our education indicators and assessments, no matter the setting, should be grounded in continuous improvement and accountability. 
  • Pillar III: Our systems of support should be strengthened to enhance shared accountability that centers equity and promotes transparency and continuous, targeted improvement. 
  • Pillar IV: Historically marginalized communities, families, and youth should have a greater voice and ownership in assessment and accountability. 

Their ideas around data use, availability, and presentation could be explored by students and educators at the district or school-level in light of available public data. One proposed question from Pillar IV that may prove useful to explore is “How do we ensure that youth voice is uplifted in these discussions without tokenizing or fetishizing young people?” To help think about this question, Bo Gibson’s 2021 article “Bringing Relevance to the Math Classroom by using Real-World Data” provides an interesting idea when coupled with the suggestions around data from NUL and UUS around student voice. They both point towards having students use real-life data, even their own data, to improve student learning of content information.

Gibson’s proposed project is further supported by Pietryka & Glazier (2022), who found that this type of project improves both how much students learned and their enjoyment in learning. Additionally, they found that 85% of students reported that the data projects made them feel like the teachers were more invested in their learning, and 63% of the students reported that the projects increased their interest in the class overall. While Gibson stops at the math classroom, some in the engineering field focus in on teaching core concepts through multidisciplinary projects (ESSS, 2022) to improve learning. They encourage multidisciplinary classroom projects to better prepare future engineers many engineering programs even at introductory levels. As such these, these types of projects, regardless of complexity, show how different content (for example: math, science, social studies and ELA) interact to build stronger connections and understanding for our students. 

Considering the amount of support for these types of projects—due to their ability to build equity and content knowledge while providing real-life experience and space to elevate student voice coupled with a large amount of public data available—educators would be remiss to not do a project of this type. On top of this, schools and districts, while (sometimes) having a Research and Evaluation department, may appreciate the outcomes produced by their students about their data. As such, consider having students process, interpret, and present some research questions that can be answered with one or more of the publicly data sets as part of classroom instruction of grade-level benchmarks. According to Gibson (2021), to do a real-world data project some helpful tools might be needed, such as Desmos and Google Sheets, and well-vetted data sets (see the list of data sources referenced earlier in this section: Selected Statewide Data Sources and Their Intended Uses). To do a project, educators will need to:   

  1. Find data.

  2. Clean and organize the data.

  3. Visualize the data.

  4. Draw insight from the data.

However, to fully embrace and follow through with efficacy, more than just math standards will be needed. The following Minnesota K–12 Academic Standards reflect some benchmarks from multiple content areas that could be reinforced collectively through a data analysis student project and provide the needed skills and concepts to fully realize the benefits of a student driven data analysis project. The table below can be accessed in the full resource on Testing 1, 2, 3

Content Area *

Middle School Connections

High School Connections

English Language Arts

2020 Minnesota K-12 Academic Standards in English Language Arts

Compare and contrast the ideas/information conveyed through illustrations, graphics and other audiovisual elements in a wide variety of texts, based on accuracy, perspective, credibility and relevance.

Formulate self-generated questions that guide inquiry, generating additional questions for further research and investigation.

Plan and conduct independent research from a wide variety of sources including academic journals and peer-reviewed sources, demonstrating understanding of subject of investigation, and share findings in writing.

Select and deliver most applicable style of presentation to communicate knowledge and ideas appropriate to task, purpose, audience and discipline, ensuring that audience can follow the line of reasoning in presentation of knowledge of ideas, following ethical and safe communication practices.


2007 Minnesota K-12 Academic Standards in Mathematics

Perform experiments for situations in which the probabilities are known, and compare the resulting relative frequencies with the known probabilities; know that there may be differences.

Use reasoning with proportions to display and interpret data in circle graphs (pie charts) and histograms. Choose the appropriate data display and know how to create the display using a spreadsheet or other graphing technology.

Collect, display and interpret data using scatterplots. Use the shape of the scatterplot to informally estimate a line of best fit and determine an equation for the line. Use appropriate titles, labels and units. Know how to use graphing technology to display scatterplots and corresponding lines of best fit.

Assess the reasonableness of predictions using scatterplots by interpreting them in the original context.

Use scatterplots to analyze patterns and describe relationships between two variables. Using technology, determine regression lines (line of best fit) and correlation coefficients; use regression lines to make predictions and correlation coefficients to assess the reliability of those predictions.

Evaluate reports based on data published in the media by identifying the source of the data, the design of the study, and the way the data are analyzed and displayed. Show how graphs and data can be distorted to support different points of view. Know how to use spreadsheet tables and graphs or graphing technology to recognize and analyze distortions in data displays.

Identify and explain misleading uses of data; recognize when arguments based on data confuse correlation and causation.

Design simple experiments and explain the impact of sampling methods, bias and the phrasing of questions asked during data collection.


2019 Minnesota K-12 Academic Standards in Science

The data sets contained in these reports would not connect with science content, but these Science and Engineering Practices could support the process of collaborative data analysis in other content areas.

1. Asking questions (for science) and defining problems (for engineering)

2. Developing and using models

3. Planning and carrying out investigations

4. Analyzing and interpreting data

5. Using mathematics and computational thinking

6. Constructing explanations (for science) and designing solutions (for engineering)

7. Engaging in argument from evidence

8. Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information


Social Studies

2011 Minnesota K-12 Academic Standards in Social Studies

Use graphic data to analyze information about a public issue in state or local government. For example: Graphic data—charts, graphs, maps, surveys, political cartoons.

Examine a public policy issue by defining the problem, developing alternative courses of action, evaluating the consequences of each alternative, selecting a course of action and designing a plan to implement the action and resolve the problem.


*The standards documents are linked.

If there are questions or clarifications needed, please reach out to the Standards, Instruction, and Assessment division at or to the Data Analytics team at

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Division of Academic Standards, Instruction and Assessment

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